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Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle Paperback – Aug 24 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (Aug. 24 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307398471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307398475
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #17,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Remarkable, bracing and highly moral, Empire of Illusion is Hedges' lament for his nation."

"Each chapter of Empire of Illusion makes a strong case for how different illusions — of literacy, love, wisdom, happiness — taken together are destroying the American mind, culture and the nation itself."
National Post

"Each chapter torches one of our cultural illusions."
The Globe and Mail

"Hedges is a fan of big ideas, and in Empire of Illusion, he draws upon the culture of professional wrestling and pornography, the elite university, positive psychology and the financial crisis to fashion a social theory of everything."
Winnipeg Free Press

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Chris Hedges, the author of the bestselling War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, is currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University, and writes for many publications including Foreign Affairs, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, Granta and Mother Jones. He is also a columnist for Truthdig.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is a collection of five 'essays', connected by the twin themes of the triumph of illusion over reality, and greed over decency. Hedges looks at different areas of American culture, ranging from acedemia to the porn industry to make his case. The book ends a discussion on how the combination of illusion and greed augur a bleak future for the US.

The first four sections are much stronger than the final. The themes are clear, the examples interesting, and his case coherent. Hedges does a good job in helping the reader understand the human costs of creating illusions. He laments the decline of critical thinking and the rise of what he terms as "pseudo-events." The numerous quotations had me flipping to the bibliography and making notes for further reading.

I found that the book stalled in the last chapter, which was largely a diatribe against corporate America. Hedges seems to lose his flow and theme. While as thought provoking as the earlier chapters, it rambled and ended weakly.

I would recommend reading the book. It asks you to reflect on difference between images and ideals.
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Format: Paperback
The over-riding theme of this collection - condemning the commodification of life - hits hard from all angles. Hedges is writing in the tradition of copia, the practice of approaching an important idea in different ways in order to reach as many readers as possible. For this reason, these essays may seem uneven from piece to piece. However, the breadth of Hedges's thesis calls for this treatment.
The final essay, The Illusion of America, must fall flat by necessity because his hope lies in a simple choice: love over commodity, the dialectic that has dominated great minds of all disciplines throughout civilization. Why make a simple, universal value more complex than it is? to cater to our contemporary craving for a stunning climax, even in non-fiction? The first essay holds possible keys to this disappointment; WWE fans aren't the only victims of commodified entertainment. We all are. It's the air we breathe.
The ideas in this book are far-reaching and immediately useful. They cry out for action, which every reader is able to employ. Democracy is a tool that we must teach ourselves to use, and this book is part of my personal toolkit.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Every person who has had questions regarding the pupose and direction of the USA over the past decades will find that these queries have been set down in print. It is called "Empire of Illusion" and I advise that all literate persons read it and pay attention to its predictions. We no longer live in the country of our childhood and the lessons we learned from our high school civics classes can now be dismissed. The author clearly states that we are all suffering from illusions in the areas of literacy, love, wisdom, happiness, and our country as a whole. The illusion is that we are the most powerful and most democratic country that the world has ever known. The reality is that we have lived in a bubble of lies and deceit since the early '70s and that bubble is about to burst.

While many reviewers have difficulties with the final three pages, I feel that mountains are being made of mole hills. The author, I feel, has a natural compulsion to end his text with a bit of hope, as trite as it may be. The author did that to the best of his ability.
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By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on March 14 2010
Format: Hardcover
In this series of critical essays on America's current and future national status, Hedges attacks all that its leaders and citizens have come to regard as the cornerstones of its existence. In clear expository fashion, he challenges an assortment of major social, moral, political and economic myths that this society has created in the name of generating wealth, fostering national pride, exploiting the weak, and dominating the world. At the end of these withering assessments, the reader should have no problem understanding Hedges's concerns about this country's dangerously shaky grasp of reality. He believes that the US, through the corporate manipulation of many of its misguided leaders and the willingness of millions of naive citizens to follow, has created the illusion of a world empire that promotes freedom for all while rewarding a select few for accepting risk. In the space of five poignant essays, Hedges employs his expository skills to expose the fallacy of such a culture. Life is not, as the utopian or liberal would have us believe, getting better over time. In fact, just the opposite can be proven. The ability to read is being replaced the desire for digital images in the form of video games; the traditional sense of love and fidelity is being corrupted by the instant gratification of pornography; the importance of renewing national values is giving way to enforcing international superiority; and the deference to wisdom and knowledge is succumbing to arrogance, intolerance and stupidity. To prevent these writings from becoming a murky rant against all that is perceived to be wrong in society, Hedges provides a lot of critical information that confirms the unmistably downward spiral of a once proud country.Read more ›
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